Blogging is such a great tool for rehabilitation. That is one reason why Suzie and I created Stone City Blog. We want all inmates to have access to this new and effective rehabilitative tool.
I’d like to encourage everyone who reads Stone City Blog, to reach out to the bloggers, and prompt them. Ask them critical questions that will inspire deeper thought and self reflection. By doing so, you could be that one thing that inspires great change within an inmate and his rehabilitative efforts. Stone City Blog gives you access to over 1,000 posts written by over 100 inmates. All of these inmates can be contacted via email (JPay).
In this post I will respond to THREE PROMPTS from Sandra Rogers.
PROMPT #1) How will you achieve a balance between redemption and rehabilitation?
This prompt is awesome. It brings a whole new dimension to my thought process. Until now, I’ve never ever even considered such a question. Redemption and rehabilitation go hand in hand. For me personally, I can’t achieve one without the other.
My rehabilitation efforts are a daily process. Everyday I’m focused on love, compassion, and understanding as I live in an environment full of hate, conflict, and turmoil. It’s my job to rehabilitate myself while in the belly of the beast surrounded by demons. I do not react to negativity with negativity. Instead, I remain focused on my goals and dreams as I use my energy in a positive productive manner.
On a scale of 1-10, if my Rehabilitation is at a 8, well then my Redemption has to be at least a 4. Because Rehabilitation is Redemption to some degree. 4 and 8 is not balanced. Therefore, I need to get my Redemption up by at least 4 points. I can do so by contributing to society in a positive way. Such as saving dogs and doing volunteer work. Hey, I do that.
PROMPT #2) How will you find a balance between Selflessness and Selfishness?
By keeping in close contact with mentors I trust and respect. Such as Suzie, Alana, Sandra, and maybe even professional counselors. They will help show me the way and keep me focused. They will prompt me to a deeper level of consciousness and self awareness.
If it is brought to my attention that a segment of my life is unbalanced, then I will do whatever it takes to balance it out. To simply answer this question: I will seek the advice of all those who are educated, and those who have great perspective and insight.
Meanwhile, in here I enjoy great balance between working out, eating healthy, watching football, and reading & writing. (Selfishness)
And then (Selflessness), helping others, sharing, and volunteering.
PROMPT #3) What are the markers of the above mentioned kind of balance?
Happiness. The ultimate marker is happiness. When my life is truly balanced, I’m at my happiest. Regardless of my environment. When aspects of my life fall out of balance, my happiness is the first to suffer.
Another great marker is the opinions and perspectives of my mentors and the people I love, and how THEY view me. If they are happy with me and proud of me, that is a great indication that I’m achieving a high degree of balance in my life.
Thank you Sandra for such thought provoking prompts. The insight and self analyzation that it takes in order to answer these questions are very valuable. Your on-going prompts have taught me more about life and myself. They invoke deep thinking and self reflection that is critical to any type of rehabilitation.
It is my prayer and hope that everyone can recognize the significant value that is hidden within inmate bloggers and critical thought-provoking prompts.
On Thursday December 1st, DOC spent $18K to shakedown two units. DOC brought extra guards in by the buss load! Literally.
The first unit they hit was G UNIT. The dog program is in that unit. So at about 10 am, a guard brought me Sam from G UNIT. Sam is a two year old Husky/Shepard mix. We spent the day playing and getting to know each other.
Sam is an awesome dog, and he’s looking for a forever home. For more information on how to adopt, please read: Adopting A Dog.
I was expecting to give Sam back at 3:30pm. But to my surprise, he spent the night with my celly (Jesse Bailey) and I. The next morning, we got raided! Sam went back to G UNIT, and all of H3 (my unit), went to the gym. There we sat for 9 hours while our cells were getting TORE UP!
Some cells got hit harder than others. I was actually surprised that my cell didn’t get hit that hard. Everything was moved around, but they didn’t dump everything on the floor like they did others.
These shakedowns are to be expected. I mean after all, this is prison. But the interview tactics was out of line! As we all sat in the gym, DOC conducted interviews with everyone. Or should I say, they interrogated everyone.
As soon as I walked in the little office, the lead investigator looked at me from above his glasses and simply said, “Sit down!”
I said, “Yes sir” and sat.
He asked, “Are there drugs in the unit?”
I said, “I’m sure there is. This is prison.”
He asked, “Who has them?”
I said, “I don’t know. I’m not in that scene.”
He said, “Don’t lie to me. You live in that unit and you know where its at!”
I said, “Sir, I understand your position and objective. But I can’t tell you what I don’t know.”
He responded, “So if you knew, you’d tell me?”
That’s when I got philosophical with him. I said, “What’s done in the darkness will eventually be brought to light. Guys that come in here and tell, eventually get exposed. And that in itself presents a whole host of problems that often turns out worse than a guy sitting in his cell getting high.”
He says nothing as he jots down notes on his pad.
I continue, “So with all due respect, let’s just focus on me and what I’m doing.”
That’s when he says, “You’re getting high. I’m ordering that extra attention be paid to your cell. I’m also ordering that you get tested for drug use.”
I’m thinking, man, this dude is hardcore! I feel myself taking offense. Then all of a sudden, The Four Agreements pop into my head. I remember the second agreement: DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY.
At that moment I start to relax and realize this guy is just doing his job and he views me as a number. He doesn’t care about me or my journey. He’s just doing his job and I just so happen to be within his line of work. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.
He quickly snaps back, “That doesn’t mean anything!”
I quietly say, “To me it does.”
Then he asks, “Who do you run with?”
I reply, “No one. But I associate with all types of people.”
“Does that include the White Boys?” he asks.
It would be so easy to be a smart-allic to this guy, and at times I’m tempted. But I stay composed and answer his questions as he attempts to put his own twist on things.
I say, “Yes. And it includes my Black friends, my Native American friends, my Asian friends, and my Mexican friends.”
As he’s interrogating me, he’s looking at a computer screen, reading some type of inaccurate information on me. At least I assume it’s inaccurate, based on his line of questioning.
He asks me, “Do you sit with all these different races in the chow hall?”
I tell him, “Yes.”
He asks me, “How do the White Boys feel about that?”
I tell him, “I’ve never went around asking, but I assume it’s just like anything else in life…some hate it, some like it, and some don’t care.”
Then he asks me, “Have you ever been affiliated with the Skinheads?”
Have you ever been affiliated with the AF (Arian Family)?
“Have you ever attended any Asatru meetings or European events?”
“Nope. But I have attended Native American Pow Wows and Cinco De Mayo celebrations.”
“Let me see your tattoos,” he demands.
“I don’t have any,” I say.
He says, “Either you willingly show me your tattoos or else I’ll strip search you, then write you up you for lying to staff.”
“If I had tattoos I’d gladly show you. But I don’t have any.”
Silence filled the room.
His entire line of questioning was an attempt to tie me to STG (security threat groups) and make me out to be a racist. (please read: Prison Ink: The Art of Hate)
As silence filled the room, he continued to read from the computer. So I took it upon myself to give him some more unsolicited insight on myself.
I said, “I know I’ve done wrong in the past. I’m ashamed and remorseful for all that. Today I’m a rehabilitated man. I treat all people with dignity and respect, regardless of their race, religion, or crime. I don’t use drugs or alcohol and I always try my best to do the right thing.”
He continues to read and says nothing.
Then to my surprise, he took off his glasses, looked me in the eye, and said, ”Thank you for your time Mr. Jennings. And good luck to you in the future. We’re done here.”
I was shocked! WTF just happened?
As I stood up, he stood up. Then he extended his hand. I felt uncomfortable shaking it. Because this is where all the snitches conduct their business. And this is the man they conduct their business with. But I have a clear conscious. I’m not a snitch. And I haven’t done anything wrong. So I shook his hand and said, ”Thank you sir” as I walked out the door.
For more on this crazy day, please read my celly’s perspective in a post he wrote on Stone City Blog called: SHAKEDOWN (the drug raid)
And oh, just so you know, they never did UA me.
Or strip search me.
Or pay special attention to my cell.
There is a perception that jails and prisons are doubling as mental health institutions.
Perception is reality. As I look around the dayroom I see a variety of inmates with mental health issues. The severity of their issues range from mild to extreme. For the most part, everyone in prison has some type of mental health issue. Otherwise they wouldn’t be in prison. So yes, mental health and prison go hand in hand.
So how bad are the mental health issues in prison? I say, not that bad. All things considered, it’s to be expected.
Most of these men are exactly where they belong. But because the criminal justice system is so massive, there is a margin of error. There are a handful of men in prison who should be in a mental institution. And vise versa, there are men in mental institutions who should be in prison.
For the most part, the system gets it right. I wouldn’t classify the mishaps as a massive problem.
The bottom line is, these men are a threat to society. They hurt, kill, and victimize people. They need to be removed from society. Whether they go to a mental health institution, or prison, that is for the courts to decide. If the courts get it wrong, that is of little consequence. Just as long as they are off the streets and society is safer. That’s what matters.
For those who can be rehabilitated and re-enter society as a law abiding citizen, good for them. Those people come from both…prisons and mental health institutions. So it’s not so much about the type of institution as it is about the mind of the individual.
I will say that being mentally sick is no excuse for any crime. If someone commits a crime and they are so mentally ill to where they don’t know right from wrong, they still need to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Especially if it’s a violent crime. Lock them up in prison, or a mental health institution.
Some people disagree. Why? Because he’s mentally ill?
So what now? Let him go free? So he can go hurt or kill someone else?
Put him in prison or a mental health institution. Which one…I don’t care. Just get him off the streets. What he does from there, is up to him. If he doesn’t have the mental capacity to ever get better, then he dies in an institution.
Sometimes reality is sad and harsh. But life goes on. And the main focus should always remain on keeping law abiding citizens SAFE from criminals and the mentally ill.
This is an interesting topic. Keep the discussion going by utilizing the comment section.
Prison is full of drama, negativity, and hate. But thanks to programs like NA, prison also offers hope, time to reflect, time to heal, and plenty of time for rehabilitation.
Some of the tools I’m finding from within NA are very effective and powerful. They go beyond addiction and can be applied by anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Here are just a few that I cultivated after reading Chapter 9 in the big blue NA book (sixth edition). I’m calling them, “JUST FOR TODAY” tools. I’ve written these down and posted them above my mirror. So now, when I look in the mirror, I look deep into my eyes as I recite my newly found JUST FOR TODAY tools. This is what I tell myself:
JUST FOR TODAY I will live in the spirit of love.
JUST FOR TODAY my thoughts will be on love and understanding as I enjoy my blessings and all the things that bring me happiness.
JUST FOR TODAY I will have faith in my abilities to avoid conflict and maintain a circle of harmony with everyone I encounter.
JUST FOR TODAY I will be impeccable with my words and only say things that are positive and encouraging.
JUST FOR TODAY I will be the best person I can be as I treat everyone with dignity and respect.
After I read these to myself, I give Yahoo a big hug and kiss his nose.
Over the years I have slowly learned how to use my hardships as a pathway to peace. As I reflect back on the many negative incidents I’ve imposed upon myself, I am now able to use them as stepping stones within my pathway to peace.
I understand where I went wrong in the past.
If someone challenged me…I’d beat them down! If I felt disrespected…I’d beat them down. I didn’t know any other way. Fighting was a way for me to be victorious. Today, victory comes with effective problem solving and the ability to co exist with the most challenging of personalities.
Fighting and violence is no longer an option for me. A Pyrrhic victory is an epic failure! That’s why it’s crucial that I find a better way and create effective tools that work for me. That way, if I’m ever in a situation where some fool runs up in my cell wanting to fight, I’ll have the self control and strength to refrain from hurting that man…and ultimately hurting myself and the people who love and support me.
I’ve come a long way…but its evident I still have a long way to go. I’ll continue to work hard as I try my best to always do the right thing.
The topic of this meeting was “Recovery & Relapse”.
My issue isn’t with drugs anymore. It’s with treating people with dignity and respect. It’s with keeping my words kind and uplifting. Therefore, when I succeed at this, I view it as a form of RECOVERY from an otherwise destructive and negative lifestyle.
NA has given me cause to stop, and really evaluate my life. Honestly.
In doing so, I see areas of relapse. I don’t always respond to people the way I should. If I don’t stay “razor sharp” focused, I suffer set backs in my recovery. NA is helping me realize this.
The book “Narcotic Anonymous” says in part:
“There is one thing more than anything that will defeat us in our recovery; this is an attitude of indifference or intolerance towards spiritual principals. Three of these that are indispensable are HONESTY, OPEN-MINDEDNESS, and WILLINGNESS.” (Ch:4, pg.18)
Those two sentences helped me realize the cause of my relapse. Indifference & Intolerance.
I thought Indifference meant “not seeing eye to eye with someone.”
And I thought Intolerance meant “not having any tolerance towards things/people that annoy me.”
So my vocabularly was a little off. But still, the message hit home.
I realized I’ve been relapsing because I don’t see eye to eye with certain men in here, and I have very little tolerance for their ignorant, stupid ways. And instead of me just walking away, I say something that violates my “Keep Your Speech Impeccable” rule.
I can’t be violating my own rules like that!
I can’t be having these minor relapses.
NA is helping me realize that an accumilation of minor relapses might just be the jarring experience that brings about a more rigorous relapse. Such as me slapping the sh*t outta one of these punks.
Please excuse the language, but that is the truth of the matter.
Just because I have gone long periods of abstinence from violence, doesn’t mean my success is complete.
Everyday presents new challenges. And I am learning that if I have an attitude of indifference towards my spiritual principals, well then that alone puts my recovery in jeopardy.
I am learning to love NA. It is giving me more tools. It is broading my perspective and understanding. It provides fertile ground that promotes growth and recovery…regardless of the addiction/issues.
Just take NA’s guiding principals & philosophies, and apply them to your struggle. Do it with HONESTY, OPEN-MINDEDNESS, and WILLINGNESS. Then sit back and watch the Universe respond. Favorably.
I keep saying how much I love this blog and how it is the best rehabilitative tool I’ve come across. Heres why: Fellowship. Feedback. Accountability.
The more I share, the more my fears slip away. I am learning to be open and honest about everything.
This blog has helped me grow. Growth means change.
It helps with my spiritual maintenance, which is essential to ongoing recovery. It helps me from feeling isolated and alone with the issues I once kept to myself.
The fellowship this blog provides has enabled me to overcome the tendency to run & hide from myself, my feelings, and my dark issues. Such as my past drug use.
So far, through only 3 NA meetings I have realized that when I communicate honestly, I can truly heal. And possibly help others heal as well. That makes me feel good and gives me a strong sense of purpose.
This blog has given me such a wonderful gift. It is a gift that I would like to pay forward to other inmates. If you have a loved one who is locked up, perhaps you can give them the gift of blogging, too.
For more details, please visit Stone City Blog.
Back in 1996, I lived with a couple heroin junkies at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Wa.
They tried like hell to get me to shoot up that brown liquid syrup. I was offered hundreds of dollars in free dope to “just try it”.
I held my ground and refused. However, I did break weak and smoke some of that icky sticky boom-bonic supersonic chronic. AKA: Weed.
It was only a matter of time before I got caught. My first dirty UA (urine analysis) cost me 180 days of good time.
Thats when I decieded that smoking weed in prison is a bad idea.
To this day I have passed every UA with ease…simply because I don’t use drugs. I’ve been clean and sober for over 10 years.
I’ve never suffered from addiction to narcotics. My problem was alcohol & fighting.
So why NA?
Because my counselor told me I must attend NA for 6 months in order to get back my 180 days of good time.
As I’m sitting in my first meeting, the speaker gives a brief speach as to what NA is and how everyone is to introduce themselves.
He explains that EVERYONE is an addict, regardless of how much they used, what they used, how little they used, or how long they’ve been clean.
The introductions start and goes around the room. When it gets to me I say,”My name is Steven, I’m an addict.”
Those words coming from my mouth didn’t feel right. I immeadiatly start to question wheather or not I want to be here. A negative attitude started to creep.
Because the truth is…I am not an addict. I’m only here because I smoked weed 20 years ago. And these meetings were assigned to me in order to earn back 180 days my good time.
I close my eyes and focus…meditate.
I recognize that NOW is the time I need to control my mind and re-evaluate my thinking. Now is the time to put everything I’ve learned into action.
Thoughts are things. And different thoughts create types of manifestation. If I’m negative, I’ll recieve negativity. If I put nothing in, I’ll get nothing out. My perception is my reality.
So right then and there, I changed my mindset. I did away with the compulsive thinking that was leading down a path of negativity. And I replaced it with positive thinking.
Such as : “These meetings CAN help me and assist me in my rehabilitative efforts.”
I came up with a goal : To Broaden My Perspective
I flipped open the big blue book in front of me. It’s called, “Narcotic Anonymous (sixth edition)”
As I read through the table of contents I realized I could identify with alot of what I was reading. Especially if I substitute a word or two.
On pg 15, it says, “We can no longer blame people, places, or things for our addictions. We must face our addictions and our feelings.” (I substituted the word “addiction” for “problems”)
I like the philosophies and principals that NA represents. I will use this program to broaden my perspective as I focus on issues within my life that I need to overcome.
And so far, it’s working!
I’ve overcome the “My name is Steven, and I’m an addict” thingy.
I’m focused on the positive opportunities that NA offers. All I have to do is attend with an open mind and a positive attitude. From there, everything else will work out the way it should.
I’ve been in the Honor Unit for 8 weeks now. I love it! Things are going great. I’m in a clean cell and I have a good celly. I have a new job. I go around to all the units and pass out commissary (store).
One privilege the Honor Unit offers is an 8 o’ clock yard. This means at 8am, only my H6 Honor Unit is allowed out in the yard. So every morning I go out, jog & lift weights.
I have a fairly full schedule. From 10:30am to 6:00pm, I work.
Then from 6pm-9pm, I take classes.
Right now I’m taking: ROOTS TO SUCCESS & REDEMPTION
In addition to my busy schedule, I always make time to read and write. I also pray several times throughout the day.
Right now, my main prayer focus is to view everyone through a spirit of love.
Because for years I would judge people in a negative manner before I ever met them. I still do that. I’ll see someone and automatically not like them.
WHY? No reason. Other than because that’s how I’ve always been. And the results have always been negative ones. Such as hostility, turmoil, conflict, hate, violence, etc…
So lately I’ve been praying for the strength to constantly view ALL people through a spirit of love. To look for the good in them. To smile at them when passing by. To be polite and say kind words.
The results are instant! I feel better and people just respond differently. There’s more harmony and a feeling of peace amongst strangers.
My new job has given me the opportunity to say “please and thank you” to every inmate here at SCCC.
When they come to get their store I say, “sign here please.” After they sign I say, “thank you”.
By saying “please and thank you” thousands of times per week to all the people I used to pre-judge, well it really helps rehabilitate a once hostile spirit.
Another thing I have going on is a strong desire to re-write portions of chapter 1 from my ebook, “Stone City: Life In The Penitentiary”.
Because recently I received a comment that strongly disputed some of the things I wrote about. They basically said I was lying. And perhaps they are right. Because some of my info was relayed to me via third party. Just because things are said, that doesn’t make them true.
But the more important issue is the fact that my choice of words are causing pain and anger in certain lives. This is not okay with me. Therefore I must do something about it. And I will.
Love and understanding, that’s what life is all about.
Thank you all for your love & support…everyone inspires me in one way or another.
Do you know anyone in the joint? If so, now is the time to give them a potentially life changing gift. Give them the gift of blogging!
As you know, I am an inmate. Blogging has helped change my life. It has created a community of support around my writing. This community helps inspire me to be the best I can be. I feel a sense of connection and fellowship. Blogging could be a valuable tool used to rehabilitate the inmates who truly want it.
For this purpose, my wife and I have created Stone City Blog to help give inmates a voice. Please tell your incarcerated loved one about this opportunity. It just might change their life for the better.